The Justice Department has rejected Texas's new voter identification law, concluding that its requirements allowing only certain IDs at the polls are likely to discriminate against Latinos.
"According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack" a driver's license or official non-driver ID card, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez said in a letter to the Texas Secretary of State's Office Monday.
Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas and parts or all of 15 other states are required to have voting changes pre-approved by the Justice Department or a federal court. Texas filed suit in January seeking pre-approval of the voter ID law. The case is pending before a three-judge court. Under the law, the state has the burden to demonstrate that the changes in voting procedures will not have a "retrogressive effect" on electoral participation by minorities.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had no immediate comment on Justice's decision.
Perez's letter (posted here) notes that the new law, known as S.B. 14 and signed by Gov. Rick Perry last May, requires that the state issue special free IDs for voting. However, there would still be a cost to individuals who lack the required underlying documentation, like a birth certificate, Perry wrote.
"There is a statistically significant correlation between the Hispanic population percentage of a county and the percentage of a county’s population that lives below the poverty line. The legislature tabled amendments that would have prohibited state agencies from charging for any underlying documents needed to obtain an acceptable form of photographic identification," Perez noted.
Perez said many voters were likely to have difficulty getting to a Department of Public Safety office to get an ID, either because of distance or limited hours.
"Even after submitting data that show over 600,000 registered voters do not have either a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by DPS – and that a disproportionate share of those registered voters are Hispanic – the state has failed to propose, much less adopt, any program for individuals who have to travel a significant distance to a DPS office, who have limited access to transportation, or who are unable to get to a DPS office during their hours of operation," Perez wrote.
The law specifically dictates that state firearms licenses are valid identification for voting. However, critics have noted that IDs issued by state universities are not among the approved documents.
In December, the Justice Department refused to clear South Carolina's new voter ID law. Officials there are also suing.
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Tags: voter id, texas, doj, obama admin, rejected, denied, hispanic voters, illegal aliens, undocumented democrats
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